Quick facts

Common names: morel, common morel, true morel, yellow morel, morel mushroom, sponge morel

Scientific name: Morchella esculenta

Family: Morchellaceae

Fruiting season: March to May

Habitat: copses, woodland and hedgerows

What does the morel mushroom look like?

The morel is an edible mushroom with a unique conical or globular-shaped cap that has a honeycomb-like appearance. Because it cannot be grown on a large commercial basis, and is usually picked from the wild, it can be very expensive.

Cap: 3–8cm across, 5–12 cm tall, sometimes conical in shape, but it’s often globular. Has an irregular array of pits separated by narrow ridges to give the honeycomb structure.

Stipe (stalk): white or pale cream and 3–12cm tall.
Spores: deep cream to yellow in colour, elliptical and smooth. They are located in the pits of the honeycomb-like structure of the cap.

Not to be confused with: the poisonous false morel (Gyromitra esculenta) which is found in sandy soil under pine trees.

extreme close-up of morel fungus

Credit: Alexander Kurlovich / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find morels

Morels are native, but uncommon, to the UK. Their fruiting bodies can grow in groups or as solitary mushrooms. Look for morel on the ground in a variety of habitats, in well-drained soil in copses, woodland and hedgerows.

Mythology and symbolism

In Eastern Europe, morels were once thought to be the work of the devil. 

morel fungi

Credit: Frank Hecker / Alamy Stock Photo

Uses of morel mushrooms

Morel is one of the most easily recognised edible mushrooms and is highly sought after. However, raw morels are poisonous and must always be cooked before consumption. The species has been found to have medicinal properties, including anti-tumour and antiviral effects, immune-regularity properties and fatigue resistance. Morels have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat indigestion, excessive phlegm and shortness of breath. In wider Asia, they are used to produce enzymes which act as a food preservative.

Did you know?

The black morel (Morchella elata) looks similar but has a pointed grey-brown cap and is most commonly found in bark mulches on flowerbeds and in shrubberies. It too must be cooked before eating.